Two-year prison officer graduate scheme set to be launched

A scheme aiming to attract top graduates to become prison officers is set to be unveiled.

The two-year programme, where participants will be required to complete a masters degree while working on the frontline, will be unveiled on Wednesday.

Graduates will even be paid the same as entry level staff as prison officers - currently £20,545 a year.

Having completed the course, participants will either continue to work in the prison service or use their experience to join other public sector organisations or the private sector.

Justice Secretary Liz Truss has backed the scheme Credit: PA

The initiative, being launched by Unlocked, an independent charity, has been backed by Justice Secretary Liz Truss.

Trust described prison officers as some of the UK's "finest" public servants.

"I want to ensure that we attract the most talented and dedicated individuals, from the widest possible pool, and I want to see improved promotion and leadership opportunities for all our prison staff," she said.

"Our officers play a crucial role in implementing our ambitious prison reform programme."

The launch comes at a time of huge turbulence in jails in England and Wales following a spate of major disturbances, including a riot at HMP Birmingham last week.

Dwindling staffing levels have repeatedly been highlighted by campaigners and union bosses amid soaring levels of violence and self-harm behind bars.

The influx of graduates is separate to a recruitment drive announced by Ms Truss to add 2,500 officers to the frontline.

Applications for the new scheme, which will seek to replicate other public sector recruitment initiatives such as Teach First, will open on January 9..